SEVILLE, SPAIN - Andray Blatche said he is excited to take on the challenge of trying to help the Philippines end a five decade-old gold medal drought in the Asian Games, but admitted the eligibility row that has cast doubt on his participation is "out of my hands."
Speaking after Gilas dropped a 78-81 overtime defeat at the hands of Croatia, the 6-10 former Brooklyn Net said he is thankful to be part of the Philippines' national team program as a naturalized player - something he never got to do for his native land.
“I am very thankful to be in a situation like this," said Blatche after scoring 28 points and grabbing 12 rebounds - both team highs - against a tall Croatian team.
His elibility, however, has been put in doubt after the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee raised the three-year residency rule on naturalized players, a clear indication that regional rivals will do everything they can to keep Blatche out of the Gilas lineup.
The determination to keep Blatche out is only expected to escalate after his performance against Croatia, more so with Gilas coach Chot Reyes admitting the naturalized player is integral to the quest for the Philippines' first Asian Games gold medal since 1962.
At this point, Blatche said he can only hope for the best.
“Hopefully, I am allowed to play,” Blatche told Spin.ph, admitting he is keeping tab of developments on the eligibility issue. “It’s for the best (of the Philippines). If not, there’s nothing I can do.
“I would love to play and represent the Philippines. I am actually looking forward to it. But at this point, it’s out of my hands.”
Told he's now one of the biggest heroes back home after his heroic stand against Croatia's towering players, Blatche let out a laugh and said he's looking forward to returning to Manila in the gap between the Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games in Incheon.
“I can’t wait to get over there (after the World Cup) and move around Manila,” he said. "The guys (his teammates) are helping me out. They took me in as one of their own.”
Judging from Blatche's words, it seems the feeling is mutual.